"We'll be back" - Mumbai City FC coach Des Buckingham 'proud' of team's season after heartbreaking ISL 2022-23 exit | OneFootball

"We'll be back" - Mumbai City FC coach Des Buckingham 'proud' of team's season after heartbreaking ISL 2022-23 exit | OneFootball

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·13 March 2023

"We'll be back" - Mumbai City FC coach Des Buckingham 'proud' of team's season after heartbreaking ISL 2022-23 exit

Article image:"We'll be back" - Mumbai City FC coach Des Buckingham 'proud' of team's season after heartbreaking ISL 2022-23 exit

Mumbai City FC head coach Des Buckingham has said that he's proud of what his side have achieved this season. He also believes the Islanders will be back for more, starting with next month's Hero Super Cup.

Mumbai City endured a gut-wrenching defeat against Bengaluru FC in the ISL 2022-23 playoffs. The ISL League Shield winners overturned a 1-0 deficit from the first leg by winning 2-1 at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Sunday (March 12) after extra time.

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Both teams' five designated penalty takers netted in the shootout to force sudden death. Buckingham's side converted their first three, as did the Blues, before Mehtab Singh's effort was saved. Sandesh Jhingan converted his spot-kick to give Bengaluru a 9-8 win on penalties.

Speaking after the game, the Mumbai City boss praised his players for their journey over the course of the last year and said:

"Firstly, well done to Bengaluru and good luck in the final. Overall, for our season. I'm very proud of what we've been able to do. I look back across to the last 10-12 months starting with the (AFC) Champions League and what were able to do there, not just in terms of results, but in terms of performance and showcasing the type of football we want to play."

He continued:

"Then I look at making the Durand Cup final and the 18-game unbeaten streak that won us the league. We thought we had enough to come here and we did what we needed to do. They won at our place, and we've now come here to beat them at theirs. But it wasn't enough, and it's gone to penalties.

"It's a bit of a heartbreaking way to exit at the playoffs stage. But overall, very proud of what we've been able to do. We'll be back, build upon what we've done and be ready for the Super Cup and the other competitions that follow."

The Islanders and the Blues put up a fabulous display of attacking football on Sunday. The two teams attempted a combined 47 shots, 17 of which were on target. Phurba Lachenpa and Gurpreet Singh Sandhu were incredible for their respective sides and key to forcing extra time.

Buckhingham lauded Lachenpa, who ended the game with eight saves, a punch and a 80% passing accuracy:

"Phurba's done extremely well. He's one of many players who have stepped into our team. A lot of the headlines goes to the foreign players, but when you look across our team, I think we've got a good balance of young Indian players."

He continued:

"Phurba's taken full advantage of a position that you don't often get too many chances in. He waited very patiently last season for an oppotunity, he got it, and then he got COVID and had to come back out. And then he got the opportunity in the Champions League; he performed, and that's the reason he's stayed as the No. 1.

"To see the progress he's made in 12 months has been great. That's largely down to his hard work, but it's certainly down to the goalkeeping coaches and the group that works so hard on a daily basis to push each other."

When he looks back, he'll realise how well he's done - Mumbai City's Des Buckingham on consoling Mehtab Singh

Not many would have wanted to be in Mehtab Singh's boots come the end of the tie between Mumbai City FC and Bengaluru FC. In a penalty shootout where 17 of 18 players converted their spot-kicks, Mehtab was the only one to miss.

However, before that, the centre-back had scored Mumbai City's second goal to bring things level on aggregate. He also put in a largely dominant display, something he has repeatedly done during of the ISL 2022-23 season.

Des Buckingham admitted that Mehtab will be in pain after the defeat but feels that's one of the only blots on an otherwise impressive season from the defender. The Mumbai City head coach said:

"Mehtab knows what I think about him, firstly as a player and then as a person. The way he has come on and developed himself, and the way he's gone about what he's done this year, it's been fantastic to see the growth in him as a person, as a player."

He added:

"You look across the league, he's, for me, one of the best young Indian centre-backs coming through. But he'll be disappointed tonight, maybe feel there's some fault on him, but there isn't. Somebody was going to miss. It'll take some time for him to get over, but he knows exactly what I think, what the group thinks about him. We'll get around him, look after him and when he reflects upon this season, he'll realise, if he doesn't already, how well he's done."

Mehtab Singh helped Mumbai City keep seven clean sheets in his 19 appearances this season. He averaged 3.5 clearances, 2.5 duels won, 1.2 interceptions and 0.8 tackles per game and also completed 87% of his passes.

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